Local Manufacturing Gets Spotlight in San Francisco
The local movement has—perhaps not so surprisingly—gone extreme in San Francisco. Last week, the city held a second-annual week-long celebration of local manufacturers.
Initiated by the nonprofit SFMade, festivities included dozens of companies giving factory tours and a speakeasy-themed fundraising mixer. New to SFMade Week this year was Saturday’s "Shop SFMade Day," when more than 60 local retailers held "buy local" events with 10 percent of proceeds donated to SFMade. SFMade stickers were put in store windows and a pop-up shop supporting the event opened inside the Banana Republic store in Union Square. An SFMade store at the San Francisco International Airport is in the works for 2013.
Started as a local manufacturers’ organization in 2009, SFMade has grown to 325 members with a combined workforce of 3,500. Members range from traditional manufacturers in operation for more than 100 years to entrepreneurial startups. Products include apparel, ceramics, messenger bags and chocolates.
With funding from city agencies, banks and companies such as Google and Levi Strauss, its annual budget has grown to $500,000. Beyond promoting SF products, SFMade offers advice on commercially zoned spaces, permit processing and business planning, while pointing members to stores that favor locally-made products.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Executive Director Kate Sofis said her organization’s primary goal is to support jobs. She said, "We want to focus on growing the footprint of the companies we have and nudge up their employment base."
In an interview with Fast Company earlier this year, she argued that local manufacturing particularly supports poorer neighborhoods, with 80 percent of local manufacturing jobs in San Francisco held by immigrants. She states that manufacturing consistently offers better wages and more benefits than other occupations for individuals with less traditional skills and education.
Ms. Sofis added, "Local manufacturers understand there’s a certain pride that comes from actually making a product within a defined geographic, social, and historic region. San Francisco plays an integral part of the overall value proposition of these companies, their brand, and their products."
With a heap of media attention, the SFMade model is being explored in other cities across the globe, including nascent efforts getting underway in New York City and Chicago.
- SFMade Week Celebrates Locally-Made Products in May – SFMade
- SFMade touts local products – San Francisco Chronicle
- Support local manufacturing jobs by buying quality ‘Made in S.F.’ products – San Francisco Examiner
- SFMade Is Making Manufacturing San Francisco’s Next Act – Fast Company
Discussion Questions: What’s the likelihood that locally-made movements will become more prevalent across the U.S. in the years ahead? What do you think of the SFMade approach?